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What are insider threats, and how you can combat them:

Cyber Security

What is an internal threat? Should your business be worried about internal threats? Is there something you can do to prevent insider threats? These are all excellent questions, and you’re not the only one asking them. 


As cyber attacks affect more businesses, many ask, why? As an MSP, we have spoken to many companies that have undergone cyber attacks. When addressing what may have caused it, the most crucial step is to access any vulnerabilities within your environment that make you a target. One principal reason for companies having vulnerabilities is insider threats.  


When it comes to cyberattacks, insider threats are commonly overlooked. As much as we like to think hazards are caused only by external parties trying to get into your network, that’s not always the case. Many threats are coming directly within your own company. 


As a managed service provider, we frequently work with businesses to eliminate their risk of insider threats. For this reason, we have developed some of the best tools and processes to mitigate cyber attacks caused by an internal source. 

What are insider threats? 

Insider threats are typically current employees, former employees, contractors, partners, or associates. This is because these people have some level of access to your company's systems and data. Internal threats occur when authorized access to an organization’s internal information, data centers, and computer systems abuse this privilege. 

With great intellectual power comes great responsibility. Insiders who misuse their access privileges can commit fraud, intellectual property theft, data leaks, or release of trade secrets. The misuse or abuse of sensitive data can be a massive risk for companies.

What are the different types of insider threats?

Whether the insider threat was deliberate or accidental, it can be equally detrimental to a company. Insider threats can be committed by current or former employees, third parties, partners, or even contractors. Insiders vary in several ways, such as their motivations, level of awareness, and points of access. There are three categories for insider threats, malicious insiders, negligent insiders, and infiltrators.

Malicious insiders are people who take advantage of their access and purposefully inflict destructive behavior on the company.

Negligent insiders are people who either unintentionally make errors or disregard policies putting their organization at risk.

Infiltrators are external actors that gain internal access and credentials without any authorization.


How to avoid insider threats

It can be tough to detect a cyber-attack from someone with internal access. Because the key to the organization's information is legitimate, noticing the suspicious activity is not easy. It commonly gets passed off as regular activity, even if it is malicious. 

Regularly monitor your environment.

To avoid and detect insider threats, your security team needs to keep an eye on all user's regular activities. This way, if something seems slightly out of place, they can begin to monitor that user more carefully. Knowing what data is sensitive and keeping tabs on where it is being used, how it is being used, and what type of risks are associated with it is critical to detect an insider threat.

Employee background checks

To minimize the threats from one of your own employees, ensure that you have done thorough background checks before hiring and giving access to your network’s sensitive data. If a new employee is planning a malicious attack on your company's network, most likely, it is not their first time doing so. For this reason, performing extensive background checks is a good place to start to avoid hiring someone who is a potential insider threat.

Cybersecurity training

Some threats are simply due to a lack of training and security awareness. To avoid this type of insider threat from employees, it is essential to watch users who have a history of falling for phishing attacks.

If employees are not careful, they can accidentally release their credentials and give a hacker an easy access point to hack into the system under a stolen identity. The better-trained employees are on how to recognize phishing attacks or suspicious attempts at stealing user passwords or logins, the less likely it is that sensitive data will end up in the wrong hands.

Select user access 

Another way to avoid insider threats is only to permit select people to access sensitive company data. When fewer users have access, this means less risk of anything getting intentionally or accidentally released. It also makes it much easier to pinpoint who may have been the culprit of the leak if only a few people have access. 

To do this, we recommend users have the minimum security permissions to do their job. For instance, not allowing users to have admin access, but instead, having a set admin account that only authorized employees can use. This is yet another step towards good cybersecurity hygiene.


Looking for more ways to mitigate cyber threats?

New cyber threats are becoming increasingly common. With so many people transferring to remote work environments, skilled hackers are using this to their advantage and gaining access to users' credentials. It is essential to educate all employees on the risks of cyber threats to avoid valuable information getting leaked, leading to irreparable damage. 

It may be impossible to eliminate any risk of insider threats, but decreasing any risk in your control, will put you in a much safer position. There are many ways that businesses can use different tools and resources to stay ahead of threats and detect them before it's too late. 

Usherwood helps businesses detect any potential vulnerabilities that could lead to a cyber attack. As an MSP, we recognize many companies being affected by many threats. To learn more about these threats and how to avoid them, check out this article: The 3 Most Common Cyber Threats For Businesses in 2021.